By the Better Business Bureau
People around the country are receiving mysterious seed packets in the mail from China. While the shipping package may be mislabeled as jewelry or other merchandise, the contents are instead unlabeled seeds.
What should you do if you receive mysterious seeds from China?
√ Contact New York's branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; or the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Seeds can sometimes be invasive species, contain pests or pathogens, and their importation is usually highly regulated by the government. Do not plant them to see what grows or throw them away.
√ Notify the retailer. Look up the company that sent you the seeds. If you can find a listing on a third-party retailer, contact that company’s customer service and report the brushing scam.
√ Check your information. The package may be a sign that your personal information has been compromised. Change passwords and keep a close eye on your credit report, bank accounts and credit card bills. By looking up your name and address using a search engine, you can in some cases see how public your information has become.
File a BBB Scam Tracker report by visiting BBB.org/scamtracker.
The seeds are a new iteration of a scam known as “brushing,” where businesses will send their merchandise to your home in order to post a fake, positive review of their products.
What is "brushing?"
Scammers are going online to find real addresses of real people and creating fake accounts. They then mail these unsuspecting people an actual product – or something completely unrelated to what they’re selling. After the tracking system confirms the delivery, these scammers can then leave a “verified” review in your name. Not only do they have one more stellar review and they have also falsely inflated their sales to look more successful than they are.
In any case, receiving one of these packages could be bad news.
By using the brushing scam, scammers are also are increasing their sales numbers. After all, they aren’t really purchasing the items, since the payment goes right back to them. Increased sales numbers, even though padded with fake purchases, look good for the company and help lead to more sales.
Be sure you check your accounts, change your passwords, and again, check your information online to see if your name is being used fraudulently.